Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hard To Bereave It

My friend Barbara told me I should join a beweavement group. I said, 'I'm not really into arts and crafts.'

'BeReavment!' she said louder, but not too loud because everyone is very very gentle around me lately. I appreciate this and at the same time I feel pathetic, like a poor pampered puppy. Some actually reach out to pet me.

I always think, 'Boy, if I was the one who died and Jimmy was left here being bereaved he would love being petted.' He was much more touchie feelie than I am. Just sitting on the couch watching TV he was content as long as I occasionally reached out and squeezed his foot. (and even more content if that led to squeezing other things)

Anyway, I should appreciate the kindness while it lasts, I suppose. I figure I have until it's a year next April and then people will go back to treating me like a normal person. I know I'll never be normal again, at least not what I recognize as normal me. It will be a new normal. Pretty wise, eh? Well, actually I read that in one of my 'How to Cope With Losing A Spouse' books. (not a real title...don't go looking it up on Amazon.

I decided to take Barbara's advise and join a group because according to grievers in the know I have a small window of time to do this. It seems from 3 months to 13 months is ideal. Before 3 months it is extremely hard to focus on what others are saying (and listening to others has never been my strong suit anyway) As Fran Liebowitz,the brilliant humorist said,

"The opposite of talking isn't listening - it's waiting."

I signed up quickly realizing I am five months in. Reading the newspapers and watching the news made me panic. So many tragedies every few seconds each day probably adds up to a long waiting list of grievers. I didn't want my window to close. Lucky me - They squeezed me in. I guess my check cleared.

On the way to my first group I was nervous, until I realized everyone else would be nervous, too and I have this ability to fake being comfortable when I just want to jump out the window. This made my nervous feeling fade and I started to feel superior. I tried to shake that off remembering the last time I was in a group this attitude did not endear me to the other group members. A snotty superior air does not win Miss Congeniality.

Wait. I'm not going to win friends and influence people. I'm going there to...hmmm, seems I couldn't finish that sentence. Why am I going?

My last group experience was as a member of the mothers' center. My almost 30 year old daughter Jackie, was 18 months old then so I suppose it's been awhile. I didn't expect the bereavement group to be the same. And, as it turned out it wasn't. Back then we introduced ourselves like this,

"Hi all! My name is Annie and I'm married to Brad and we have 2 wonderful children,
Jennifer and Jason. I used to work in the deli, but now I'm a stay at home Mom and
I love it! I no longer get a discount on the cold cuts, but I still get to make sandwiches! In my spare time, if I have any, that is ('snort-snort') I enjoy making placemats."

You have to hate Annie, right? I know I did.

As expected, the bereavement group had a way less perky atmosphere which normally I would prefer, but I wasn't prepared for the introductions like,

"I'm Eva. It's been six months. My husband, Charlie wasn't well for some time
and the doctors put him through all kinds of tests and when pancreatic cancer was discovered we knew he would have to have chemo. He lost so much weight and was really really weak, although he managed to come to our son's wedding, but wasn't strong enough to dance. His mother told me...wait, I'm sorry, am I talking too much?"

"YES, Eva - Just shut up already!" I said to myself. The group leader told her, "Of course not. Go on. That's why we're here."

Is that why we're here? I thought - to hear horrible stories? I sat there cringing realizing that soon it will be my turn and my story is pretty horrible, too.

Where are the young moms? Why aren't I hearing them confess that they laid awake the night before because they were guilty that they told their two year old,

"Your bottle ran away from home and now it's time to drink from a big girl sippy cup."

Actually, I always knew those concerns were stupid. Maybe, that's why I found it so difficult to listen.

Now, I'm listening. I'm sitting in a group of 10 people all between 50 and 60 all who lost a spouse and I'm listening to the other 6 women and 3 men. I'm getting more nauseous by the minute and I wonder what would happen if I dropped dead right there in the bereavement group. The person in the middle of talking might feel really guilty and she doesn't need that now. I'd better snap out of it.

I notice a phenomenon. Each of the three men had wives who were sick for YEARS and YEARS and I watch them tell their story with genuine love and compassion and selflessness - the endless doctor appointments, hospitalizations - "And, then my poor Judy was in a wheelchair - I was her sole caretaker."

To me, these men are from another planet. Jimmy was a wonderful, generous and loving man, but a nurturer he wasn't. Lucky for us both in 33 years I hardly ever got sick, but when I did it was,

"Come on. You can't still be sick."
And, this was after three days.

Several years ago I had liposucsion and I had to wear a tight long girdle.

"But how are we going to have sex with that thing on?"

I wondered about the sex. Did these men have a low sex drive or was Jimmy a maniac?
I wanted to stand up and scream, "What did you do all those years?"

I looked for any teeny sign of resentment - the helping her shower, getting her dressed, the not being able to go to the movies...nothing.

Maybe, I'm still in my angry stage because all I know is I went to the group feeling sad and alone hoping this would help and I left being mad at Jimmy. I know deep down he wouldn't have taken care of me so happily. And, now I can't even go home and start a fight with him. It's still so hard to bereave it.